Event Reviews and Notes

Lowbrow Opera Collective’s More Than Friends (5/26/23)

I have had five productions of operatic scripts and studied classical singing for a number of years a number of years ago, so when my first Friday night off in over three years loomed, I got on the 18th and Union web site and pounced on the young opera effort.


Fortunately, the live event is sold out, though streaming tickets are available -- unfortunately you will not be able to avail yourself of the ambiance of lean and hungry young art, sit on couches backstage, or overdo it with wine in plastic cups.

For a good price.

As are the tickets, which go for a sliding scale starting at $10, always a good bet for fellow artists. It is almost an industry night every night!

From what I can tell from this production, there is no down side to getting a degree in vocal performance. I don’t care. You can get a job. There are all kinds of jobs, and you can get trained to do all kinds of non-technical things. The corporate world is full of training. They take you because you are a reasonable, smart, young body. They sit you in a cubicle. If you know how to use Microsoft products, which anyone with a degree in vocal performance would know how to do, you can have a job. So don’t worry. Just sing.

Although, being a would-be classicist, I have to shout out to Achilles, my favorite of the triptych was the Emily Dickinson piece. Wow. 


So stream it, and be sure to have a cup of wine.

The New Skid Row Theatre's People in the Square by David Nyberg & Rose Cano (8/2/22)

Here’s coming at you with internationally commodified Italian coffee, which began right here in Old Town Seattle. 

Let me apologize for the long hiatus since my last review. I would complain of nothing but work, work, work and the vicissitudes of life, with a couple of moves thrown in. What is it with rent? Two hundred a month more than pre-COVID, and so much demand I can hardly get into anything in town. I am hunkered down in SOUTH Tacoma when I am not at the boat, and, more often than I care to admit, sleeping in the car between double overnight shifts at work, and that is not a good recipe for theatre.

My friend Rose Cano is one of the authors of this piece, a theatre artist with such an exemplary track record for four decades that, whatever may be, the piece can be counted on to be thrilling. I don’t know David Nyberg other than meeting him the once last night, but I know he has good taste in collaborators. 

How to approach the subject of people in Pioneer Square in a musical? That was the dramaturgical challenge of the night, and the answer was, slyly. 

Part of the answer was the space itself, the ur-Seattle built so low it flooded and was built over by the present municipality, with the bones of its predecessor still nestled beneath it. I haven’t done the Underground Tour, and have been needing to. Now that I have successfully gotten there, I can get there again. http://www.undergroundtour.com/about/history.html

The initial plan was to park my car at the Tukwila Transit Center, take a bus to the boat, then a bus to the show, but as I made my way to the Light Rail platform, it occurred to me that the train stops in Pioneer Square, just a couple of blocks from the venue, and aren’t there numerous bars, restaurants, and other venues of comestibles to help me while away the extra hours?

So jump on the train and avoid all that nasty, expensive Pioneer Square parking. I managed to find the Merchant Saloon and have a cocktail before the show. That is a nice way to start a show, although unnecessary, in this case. This show began with a visit to the Speakeasy and a round of drinks already in progress, so I recommend you plan on that, and possibly go easy with the first drink. Just saying. https://merchantscafeandsaloon.com/

The show itself was topical, well-produced, enthusiastically acted, and well-directed. The band was stunning and the singing, Cara Mia! It is not easy to do a musical in this post-HAMILTON era, especially with a recondite subject. How to tell the story of Pioneer Square when it bridges vast chasms of culture, from the Duwamish Nation to the 19th-century settlers to the modern corporate to the homeless to the night club scene and the arts? You have to craft each particular segment and jump from disparate moment to disparate moment. Some of these moments will be more well-received than others. This is especially the case in the situation of new music. So my hat’s off to this creative team for this piece. 


Thalia’s Umbrella’s Europe by David Greig (3/21/22)

Europe is and isn’t a COVID play, while also being a clever choice of literature.

It is often difficult to write about major and harrowing world events while they are raw. It was a number of years before I could conceptualize a 9-11 play, and I still haven’t written it! So Terry Edward Moore’s no doubt deep and rich knowledge of the ouevre has brought up a sly and subtle winner. I doubt Thalia’s Umbrella anticipated the Ukraine war, but that also resonates in this production.

A homeless couple, Katia and Sava, show up at a UK border railway station as the town, including its industrial base, is being decommissioned and the locals put out of work. There they become entangled with the town’s drama as families suffer disruption, the marginalized bear the brunt of the malaise, and the railway station discontinues hosting trains. Complications both personal and global engulf the misfits, and everything goes sky high.

Nothing is amiss in the production; even the clean, minimalist staging consisting of an empty space lends to the forward progression of the story. At the end, we are left with the sense that preexisting societal structures are now gone, and the way forward is not familiar, even down to the individuals who have to accept their new status as winners and losers. While this is not an unknown idea concerning our post-pandemic world, it is helpful to have it conceptualized in the medium that has seen itself viewed and treated similarly to the ill-benighted train station. 

No one is here because the train no longer stops. 


Seattle Public Theatre’s Christmastown (12/15/21)

There is a sense of scale in theatre, like Goldilocks and the Three Bears. This show is too big, that is too small, but that is just right. There is something to be said for all of them, but it is a relaxing pleasure when you find yourself in the right hands. You are going to be okay. 

That is where we are with Christmastown — it is just right!

First, the ticket price includes an artist level of $10 that allowed a middle-aged playwright-ish working at high school student wages to pony up and go. Maybe after I pay off my car or something I will go up to the next level, and certainly shelling out $7 plus tip for a glass of wine that cost them $1.72 was part of the evening’s overall expense, but I could absolutely get there for a $10 ticket. I can’t always make the $35 show. Sorry.

Then there is the script, always the focus of the playwright. That is one of the things that was just right. It had the premise of a film noir private detective in a place called Christmastown on the hunt for clues to what happened to “Big Red,” the mysteriously missing Santa Claus. The romp takes us through every cliché in both film noir and the secular Christmas folklore of America, including 34th Street, Rudolph, the classy dame, and plenty of vamping about at gunpoint. It is a workmanlike thing that should just be produced, because it gets the job done.

With a set that cost ~$20 and was probably in someone’s garage, the cast of four strong players cleverly shuffling about with roles and properties, and the directing strong and inventive within the range of effective and usual business that moved the show along, the practically sold-out house, on a Wednesday night, even, left by 8:30 with an air of contentment, not entirely used up, and ready for the next phase of the evening, a late dinner, drinks, conversation. Nearby establishments had emptied out a bit from the dinner rush and no doubt offered seats for the elegant comestibles we thrive on in these works. It is good. The second show started at 9, crowds were already lining up when I left — hope was in the air.


Vashon Repertory Theatre’s Kiki in the Woods of Present Memory (postponed on 11/15/21 due to power outage)

OOPS! READING POSTPONED! and I did all this writing!

Bryan Willis is always somehow subtly guilting me about playwriting. Yes, I can playwright. In my youth, I had a great ouevre planned — an ouevre that now seems not quite right somehow. Five or six of those early play ideas are worthy of being written and still call to me, but not thirty. I can’t imagine having to churn out a play — or five! -- on commission every year. It is an obscene exercise in playwright franchising

So it is a relief to see that he has found other people willing to do the job so I can watch.

Now let’s talk about this dreaded business of AFFORDING THE TRIP, for that is what I was on about with Bryan from the start. Vashon Island? How many of us can make that $32 ferry trip in our cars? 

I came up with a solution. It is called the bus, and it would have worked if this were a normal bus situation, say, in New York where everyone rides the bus because there is no sense in cars. There is not enough road space, nor enough time, nor any parking under $100 a day. So no cars. The problem is, I have scarcely been on a bus since I bought a car in 2018 to live in Seattle with. I used to merrily dive into the public transit in New York, and, oddlly enough, it takes about as long to get anywhere there as here. It is just that in New York, it is expected to take the subway and the bus, whereas here it is considered a hardship and greatly pitied, so anyone who does it is deemed a loser whereas they might just be getting a lot of reading done as well as keeping down that carbon footprint. 

As it turns out, Vashon’s only bus only runs until 5:30 p.m. or so. I reported this to Bryan who was, at that very moment, reporting to everyone that it was no biggie since there was no play anyway due to a power outage.

I have concluded that for the rescheduled January reading, I will have to be proactive about getting to Vashon on the other ferry, the one that goes from West Seattle where there are more theatregoers of our price range than Tacoma where there are, evidently, fewer. So it will be a situation of beating the bush myself to get people to pitch in the $5 or so for the ride. 

So, in January, ¡Alla nos vemos!


18th & Union’s Animal Saints & Animal Sinners 2 (PARTIAL REVIEW) (11/11/21)

Now, first, let me say, I had to dash out to my car from work to watch some of the show on break, but that does not preclude me from opening my big mouth about it.

I first heard about these naughty animals about fifteen years ago when I saw Bret Fetzer relating their exploits at a club in Portland, and here we are, all these years later, the animals are still misbehaving, and look who’s back in town.

I got far enough into the show to find out about some lugubrious bears and the coo coo poodle obsessions of the rich before I had to go back in and work. It was one of those emergency health care “Can you come in right now?” situations; otherwise, I would have been sitting there like a normal person, having normalcy and then a pile of relief drinks. 

The biggest thing about the show was thrown out by the House Manager in his opening speech, “Is this your first time back in the theatre?”

That was pretty much the emotional tone of everything this week. I don’t know why I got activated this week except it’s the first week in November, the biggest theatre month of the year, the month when nice guys come in from the sun.


eSe Teatro’s Fermin’s Great Book of Dreams (11/8/21)


December 8, 2021 — I hadn’t physically been to the theatre since mid-2019 when I took a job that had me working seven days a week, evenings, albeit living indoors.

It did cross my mind that my work schedule would be the end of theatre, but here I was, single again at fifty-five, facing a labor market not friendly to middle-aged female artists, and making a reasonable call. This is what is, for now. 

And back in Seattle.

I had been living in New York where going to the theatre is like breathing. You jump on the train and you’re there, two, three days a week. 

Life shuffled things around, then Covid. 

I doubted. 

I couldn’t bind to Zoom theatre, though I did try.

I worked sixty hours a week in health care and collapsed at the end of my work week.  

I didn’t see how the economics would enable much of what we had had in theatre to hold on.

But there I was, two years later, in an auditorium in the U District, staring at a pile of theatrical cubes.

At first it was strange to see them in three dimensions -- I must have gotten so used to seeing theatre on a computer screen that the physicality of it was jarring.

They were enchantingly painted. Usually set cubes are plain black.

Then the show, Fermin’s Great Book of Dreams by Julieta Vitullo, began. 

I couldn’t shake the sense that the theatre itself had become disjunct during the Covid lockdown, and now disparate parts were reanimating and coming together. It didn’t help that this was opening night, and the first time the show was live in front of an audience.

Nevertheless, the production unfurled itself, a lively offering of children’s theatre. 

It was a generous audience that included many children, and we all tried extra hard to will the art form back to life. 

As the performance went on, the theatre itself healed, and we became normal in our inhabiting of the universe of Fermin and his lost tooth.

The only actor in the cast I knew was Meg Savlov, an inimitable fixture of Seattle Latino theatre.

I went largely because I am a Meg-bot. For decades Meg has slogged it out to everyone’s shows with the art card for her latest show in her bag. She used to carry her little dog Pepe the Papillon with her to everything. I used to worry about Pepe barking in the middle of a show, but he never did. He was a great theatre dog. 

A body of work like Meg’s comes to acquire a heft that moves mountains. She puts out the word for her show, and anyone who knows what’s good for them appears. I certainly do, and add the latest show to the long catalogue in my memory: flamenco dancing, gypsy singing, English, Spanish, the grandmother, the ghost. I know I will see that familiar face on the stage again and in the audience of my next show.

There was much laudable in the production. I have seen about three of eSe Teatro’s productions, including a reading of my own, and they were all workmanlike and understated. This is a wonderful company.

The one to watch of the evening is Vena Kahlo, the costume designer. Get a load of this:

Fermin Costumes

Performances at UHeights Auditorium continue into next week. It is well worth the effort for the $5 pay-what-you-will tickets. ¡Alla nos vemos!


© Joann Farias 2023